What To Do With The Suddenly Dynamic Demitra?

Jason KuryloJoin us in welcoming our newest contributor to CanucksCorner.com, Jason Kurylo. Jason is a sports fan who has a writing background and a passion for the Canucks. We put out a call for writers on Twitter, and Jason answered. In his first blog for the site, Jason looks at the successful Olympics for Pavol Demitra and wonders what the Canucks options should be in dealing with the veteran Slovak and NHLer going forward.

We were treated to some pretty outstanding hockey in the Olympic tournament, of course, topped nicely by Captain Roberto Luongo preserving Canadian pride against Ryan Kesler’s second period goal and second intermission trash talk. Gold north of 49, thank you very much, and silver for our American brethren to the south.

In fact, Canucks figured in each of the top five teams in the tournament. (Sorry, Christian Ehrhoff fans, but your boy’s German team finished a distant 11th. The man can’t do it alone.)

Sami Salo helped Finland pick up its fifth men’s ice hockey medal since 1988 — his second, as he took home a silver in Torino in 2006. Side note: the Finns have more medals in men’s ice hockey in that time than any other nation. That’s right, the Finns.

They won’t be happy about it, but Henrik and Daniel Sedin didn’t get a sniff at medals this time round, despite taking gold outright last time round. They were knocked out by… the Slovaks?

The biggest surprise of the tournament wasn’t Canada taking gold, Crosby scoring in OT or even Marty stumbling to allow Luongo into the big show. It was the play of the Slovakian team, led by — get those questions marks ready again — Pavol Demitra?

Demitra’s performance since returning from off-season shoulder surgery has been mediocre at best. His slow feet and stone hands have brought to mind Mats Sundin’s slow mid-season re-entry to the NHL just a year ago. Sure, Demo tipped a shot home and scored in the shootout against the Bruins a week before the tournament. But other than that game, his spot on the roster has been largely wasted. After missing a couple of games to attend to a family illness, the 35-year-old Demitra, he of the $4 million annual salary, came back on Valentine’s Day to find himself on the fourth line.

So who predicted Pavol Demitra would not only lead his country to its best-ever Olympic showing, but that he would lead the Olympic tournament in scoring?

Cynics in Vancouver, myself included, pointed at his last-second miss against the Canadians in the semis: “There’s the Demitra we’re used to.” Luongo’s amazing glove save aside, Pavol’s inspired play for the Slovaks included a shootout winner over the Russians and a goal and two assists in what Demitra called “the biggest win in my country’s history” over the defending champs from Sweden. The ten points are six more than he’s put up with the Canucks this year, against much tougher competition. Then again, he was also playing with guys like Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara.

The argument, then, is either for moving Demo back on to one of the top two lines — would the Sedins have him after that quarter final game? — or move him off the squad altogether. Don’t be surprised if this is one salary dump that gets done before the March 3 deadline. Either that, or Mike Gillis needs to get a Slovak flag hung in the rafters, STAT.